Bridgestone knows a thing or two about motorcycle tires. After all, the company supplied control tires to MotoGP for seven seasons. Another thing most riders should know but may not is that Bridgestone manufactures tires across every niche in the motorcycle industry, from state-of-the-art race tires to scooter rubber. However, the product development folks realized that, while metric cruisers were covered with the Exedra Max line, the Japanese tire manufacturer had not developed tires specifically for the American-made V-Twin cruiser market. So, Bridgestone’s engineers set out to remedy this situation, and the result is: “The Battlecruise H50 tire, the first of its kind from Bridgestone, expands the company’s motorcycle tire portfolio with a performance tire offering that is specially designed for large-displacement, cruiser-style bikes, which account for 50% of motorcycles on U.S. roadways.”
One of the benefits to come out of the company’s time in international racing paddocks around the world is the ULTIMAT EYE (U-EYE) technology developed for testing MotoGP and Formula 1 race tires. The U-EYE is, in its most basic sense, a dynamometer – only this one can measure on multiple axises and states, essentially imitating the forces encountered by a tire on the road. Everything from the surface area of the contact patch to sidewall deflection during cornering/braking/hitting bumps to heat developed under loads. Prior to the company’s announcement of the Battlecruise H50, only one other street tire had been designed with an assist of U-EYE. The Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21, introduced this past spring, directed the performance roots of the U-EYE towards a sporting street tire.
While intended use of the Battlecruise H50 tires is a far cry from MotoGP, the goals are more similar than one might expect. Bridgestone desired to get the best mileage/wear, grip, and handling within the envelope in which the tires would operate. The U-EYE helped the engineers work their way through the process of finding the correct recipe of rubber compound, tread pattern, carcass construction, and tire profile. The resulting front tire features a large contact patch with uniform pressure across that surface area, which Bridgestone claims delivers “less steering effort and light linear handling.” The end result is more cornering force at reduced camber angles. Since cruisers have less available lean angle when compared to other motorcycles, this is a good thing.
The Battlecruise H50 rear tire receives a new compound and a profile that has a larger radius when compared to its “main competitor” which translates into a wider, more gradual slope from the tread center to its edge. The result is a larger contact patch Bridgestone claims was “designed to optimize the slip and adhesion portion of rubber on road surfaces.” (Note: Bridgestone’s lack of specificity about which tires they designed to directly compete with in the marketplace comes from their legal department. Until the independent third-party testing the tires are currently undergoing is complete, the company won’t make specific claims – like longevity, which will be covered a bit further down – despite the results of its internal testing.) U-EYE also allowed for the carcass’ vertical stiffness to be tuned for increased rider comfort (shock absorption) without compromising handling (rigidity).
In addition to the carcass construction and tire profile, Bridgestone wanted to provide good traction in both wet and dry conditions. If you’ve been watching motorcycle tire technology in recent years, you know how far wet weather grip has advanced, offering levels of traction unknown to previous generations of riders. While the rubber compound is largely responsible for the mechanical and chemical grip provided by tires, the groove pattern also plays an important role in channeling the water away to allow the tread to physically contact the pavement. For the H50, the tread pattern utilizes a central groove around the circumference of the front tire to slice a path through water. Since the front tire will have cleared most of the water out of the way, the rear H50 uses grooves that come up to the tire’s center line on alternating sides. Finally, because style is so important to the cruiser market, the H50s have a cross-hatched diamond design on the outer edges of the tread. The shallowness of this feature means it will have no effect on the bike’s handling.
Finally, Bridgestone claims that the Battlecruise H50 will deliver increased mileage. Part of that bump in durability comes from the larger contact patches. With their more evenly distributed pressures, there are fewer shearing forces put on the tread where it contacts the road, which is claimed to result in reduced wear. Bridgestone considers this counter-intuitive situation where improving performance also increased longevity to be a two-fold win for the Battlecruise H50. Unofficially, Bridgestone is claiming roughly 80% more life from the rear tire: “If you’re doing 10,000 miles on our main competitor, we’re doing 18-19(000) on the rear tire.”
Testing a new tire aimed at the street is always a difficult task. Without the benefits of lap times or the opportunity to ride the tires at the absolute limits, finding quantifiable explanations of how they work is a challenge. Cruisers compound the issue because they typically run out of performance long before the tires are fully taxed. Claims of wet-weather grip can only be ascertained if the press ride includes wet pavement. Finally, a tire’s longevity comes into play over thousands of miles. In a short ride of just a couple hours, the results become essentially first impressions. So, here are mine:
The Bridgestone Battlecruise H50 does indeed steer noticeably quicker and easier. I spent the majority of my time on an Indian Scout Sixty because I noticed that the lead riders for the introduction were on Scouts with OEM tires. Since the two Scout models have essentially the same chassis, I knew I would be able to swap bikes and make a direct comparison with the stock tires.
When it comes to cornering, Bridgestone claims the steering effort is approximately 40% easier. While putting a number on the effort from my perspective in the saddle would be arbitrary, the H50s responded quicker and with less effort. More importantly, the H50 changed lines mid-corner effortlessly. In my simulations of swerving around an object in a road while cornering (like what might happen in a blind turn), the Battlecruise H50 allowed me to stand the Scout up and then snap it back into the corner with noticeably less effort. In the real world, that would translate into standing the bike up, running a bit wide, and leaning it back over (to maximum lean, if necessary) in less time/distance.
Braking left the H50s similarly unfazed. Entering a corner too hot and applying the brakes while leaned over did not cause the bike to stand up. Even ham-fisted brake applications left the Scout on track while scraping pegs. Given that I only rode on the OEM tires for a few short miles on a winding road, I don’t have any direct comparison comments for the braking while cornering.
Similarly, while I can say that the Battlecruise H50 has impeccable braking manners when straight up and down, no direct comparison is possible with the OEM tires. Since we were riding on the incredibly smooth roads outside of Orlando, Florida, I had few opportunities to test Bridgestone’s claims about the improved ride provided by the H50s. An accurate impression is something that requires more seat time and input than deliberately hitting the occasional broken pavement encountered on a press ride. Still, the Bridgestones provided similar – possibly slightly better – bump absorption.
Since the Bridgestone Battlecruise H50 tires will not be released until early 2017, the retail price has not been set yet. However, Bridgestone’s reps said that the price will be comparable to its direct competitors, meaning that installing a pair on your American V-Twin cruiser will be a relatively low-risk proposition. The fact that the Bridgestone Battlecruise H50 will be the company’s only motorcycle tire to offer a road hazard warranty speaks volumes about the confidence placed on the product. The initial batch of Battlecruise H50s are destined for lighter cruisers, like the Indian Scout or the Harley-Davidson Sportster. Battlecruise H50 tires for heavier, touring-focused American V-Twins will arrive in early 2018.
|Bridgestone Battlecruise H50 Sizes|
|Front||130/90B16 M/C 73H TL*||Jan 2017|
|Front||100/90B19 M/C 57H TL *||Jan 2017|
|Front||130/90B16 M/C 67H TL *||Jan 2017|
|Front||80/90–21 M/C 54H TL*||Jan 2017|
|Rear||150/80B16 M/C 77H TL*||Jan 2017|
|Rear||140/90B16 M/C 77H TL *||Jan 2017|
|Rear||130/90B16 M/C 73H TL *||Jan 2017|
|Rear||160/70B17 M/C 73V TL*||Jan 2017|
|Front||120/70ZR19 M/C 60W TL||Jan 2018|
|Front||120/70ZR18 M/C 59W TL||Jan 2018|
|Front||140/75R17 M/C 67V TL||Jan 2018|
|Rear||240/40R18 M/C 79V TL||Jan 2018|
|Rear||200/55R18 M/C 78V TL||Jan 2018|
|Rear||150/60ZR17 M/C 66W TL||Jan 2018|
|Front||130/80B17 M/C 65H TL *||Jan 2018|
|Front||130/60B19 M/C 61H TL *||Jan 2018|
|Front||130/60B21 M/C 63H TL *||Jan 2018|
|Front||130/70B18 M/C 63H TL*||Jan 2018|
|Rear||180/65B16 M/C 81H TL*||Jan 2018|
|Rear||180/55B18 M/C 80H TL*||Jan 2018|
|Rear||180/60B17 M/C 75V TL*||Jan 2018|
|Rear||180/70B16 M/C 77H TL*||Jan 2018|
|In January 2017, the Bridgestone Battlecruise H50 motorcycle will be released in eight sizes for select American V-twin cruiser models. In early 2018, 14 additional touring-oriented sizes will hit the market. (*According to Bridgestone, these tires can be mounted on tube-type rim if the appropriate tube is used.)|